The short answer, Hell yes. My experience giving birth was significantly enhanced by having a doula by my side. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term- the word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.
If you have read the book The Red Tent you will be exposed to a sacred time in human history that women supported women through the birth process. Men were not allowed. It was a time for celebration and connection with other women and with our bodies. A rite of passage to bring life into the world. We have lost that sacred connection with other wise women in these modern times and regrettably do not feel in tune with our own intuition about our bodies in many ways.
The landscape for birth has gotten better in recent years and many hospitals are embracing the woman’s plan for her birth. Hospitals are welcoming doulas and midwives into the birthing room and they are supporting breastfeeding and other early bonding activities that are evidence based to support optimal development for the baby and also for the mother. I think working with a doula is an excellent way to tap into our ancient feminine wisdom and connect with another woman who is passionate about birth and understands how to support another women through the birthing process.
I chose to work with a doula for the birth of my first baby because having a reliable supportive advocate wasn’t guaranteed (my mom was miles away in NY and my other girlfriends had never experienced birth and were clueless about what would happen). Christen was there for me the entire 40 hours I labored. She knew when to put a hand on my back for comfort, when to put pressure on my hips to get through a contraction, when to put the water to my lips and when to offer words of encouragement. She knew when to look deep into my eyes and speak to my inner feminine wisdom to tell me “you can do this. you are going to meet your baby soon, keep focused”. She was by my side when I felt doubt, fear, exhaustion and anxiety. She reminded me that every woman who ever brought a baby into the world felt this way and every one of them walked into the uncertainty and unknown of childbirth but emerged as a mother. She reminded me that our bodies were designed to carry and birth a child. She reminded me that we can try to stick to my birth plan of a natural, non-medicated and totally intervention-free labor but that in the end, the only thing that mattered was having a healthy baby. She gently told the nurses every shift change that I wanted to labor as long as I could naturally. She reassured Aaron that it was ok to get some fresh air and take a break. She was my rock.
I ended up giving birth naturally and with confidence. I have my doctors, nurses, husband and doula to thank for that. Although my doula helped me tap into the spiritual aspect of birth and helped me remember the connection to the greater feminine energy that all women are born with.
What does a doula do?
1. Recognizes birth as a key experience in your life and supports you throughout your labor
2. Acts as a confidant to ask questions and express your feelings, fears and expections
3. A non-medical member of your team that provides emotional support, physical comfort and facilitates communication between your medical team and you and your partner
4. Gives your partner a break (mine went to the diner across the street 3 times during my labor)
5. She is someone you can share the memory of your birth with at a later date
How to choose a doula
- Trust your gut. You have to spend the most intimate moments with this person by your side, choose carefully. Make sure you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with this person. Most doulas offer a free initial consultation to get a feel for how you might work together.
- Remember they are there to support you but they will not have the baby for you- so sometimes looking for the highest rated doula or the one with the most experience won’t necessarily help you stick to your birth plan.
- Read other women’s testimonials. Find out how they felt while working with this doula
- Ask her about her birth story and see if it aligns with your values
- See what your partner thinks. Your partner will spend just as much time with your doula during your labor, so it is important for everyone to get along so there is a harmonious experience for all.
- Consider the investment. Hiring a doula is an investment and depending on where you live they can range anywhere from $500-$2500. Most doulas offer a package that includes a prenatal and postnatal visit and they attend your labor. Some flexible spending accounts may allow you to use your funds for hiring a doula. Keep in mind that investing in a doula could potentially save you thousands if you can avoid unnecessary costly interventions.
What was your experience working with a doula?